The prescribed time for Salah

Q: There is a prescribed time for each Salah (Prayer), for Allah (Exalted be He) (Part No. 5; Page No. 109) says, Verily, As-Salât (the prayer) is enjoined on the believers at fixed hours. People hold different opinions with regard to Fajr (Dawn) Prayer. Group no. (8) offers Fajr Prayer according to the schedule specified by the Ministry. According to this schedule, Salah is offered in the darkness. However, group no. (2) believes that Salah should be delayed. They support their view with the prophetic reports that refer to delaying Salah until the daybreak and before the crack of dawn such as the Hadith reported on the authority of `Aishah, and the Hadith of the man who was inquiring about the time of Salah reported from Salhan ibn Bawdah from his father. This is in addition to other various reports that have the same effect but are too long to be mentioned here. It is worth mentioning that group no. (2) delays performing Fajr prayer until the dawn is breaking and leaves the Masjid (mosques) when the morning is manifest. They claim that the Salah offered by group no. (8) is invalid and they should repeat it. On the other hand, group no. (8) believes that the time in which they offer Salah is specified by legal astronomers and their Salah is valid. It is worth mentioning that the difference in time between the two groups is twenty minutes.Is group no. (8) right in following the schedule set by the Ministry? Is their Salah invalid as claimed by group no. (2)? Is group no. (2) right? Should we follow this schedule? What should we do in this case? Should we offer Salah with group no. (8) (Part No. 5; Page No. 110) with the intention of Nafilah (supererogatory) and then repeat it so that we do not miss the reward of congregational Salah? Are we to be blamed if we offer Salah according to the prescribed time?

A: First, the time of Fajr Prayer starts from the crack of the second dawn until sunrise. However, it is better to offer Fajr at the beginning of its prescribed time before the daybreak as stated in the Sahih (authentic) Hadith. It is reported on the authority of Jabir that, The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to perform Fajr in the darkness before dawn. (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) It means that he (peace be upon him) used to observe it in the darkness directly before the crack of dawn.It is reported on the authority of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that The believing women used to offer Fajr Prayer with the Prophet (peace be upon him) while they are covered with their Murut (wool cloth). After finishing the prayer they would return to their houses without being recognized by anyone because of the darkness. (Agreed upon by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) This is in addition to other Hadiths to the same effect.Scholars state that the reports that apparently support delaying Fajr Prayer until Isfar i.e. daybreak indicate that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to do this sometimes but he used to offer Fajr in the darkness before the crack of dawn. It is said that the word "Isfar" means to ascertain the start of the daybreak. Others said it refers to the recommendation of prolonging the recitation in Fajr Prayer, so the day would be breaking when Salah is over. (Part No. 5; Page No. 111) Second, holding different opinions with regard to this matter should not be a reason for dispute and separation of Muslims who live in the same district. You should all unite, cooperate in righteousness and piety, abide by the Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet), and explain it to people kindly, not dispute over it. It is better to agree to offer Fajr Prayer at the beginning of its prescribed time as mentioned above. Otherwise, you can offer it in the middle or at the end of its prescribed time so as to keep harmony between people.You should follow the Juristic authority which is responsible for determining the time of Salah to ward off this kind of dispraised difference of opinion.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.